About: Bob Wheeler

I’m a Navy veteran who will be transitioning to the civilian world in June of 2014 after a terrific 20 year career working in Navy Medicine.  Although I started out as a medical technician, it was four years later that I discovered my true passion was working with people, as opposed to patients.  The instructor tour I did from 1998 to 2001 (Instructor at The Combat Casualty Course) put me in front of medical officers from the Navy, Army, and Air Force.  I truly enjoyed working with and teaching these outstanding men and women from across multiple services, and was fortunate to have terrific mentors while there, as well.bridge pic

Looking back at it now, I can see that the skills I honed such as, public speaking, leadership, problem solving, and a genuine desire to see others succeed, would become the bedrock of my success at my next command.  It was in that follow on position of Leading Petty Officer for a Regimental Aid Station (think assistant HR Manager for medical clinic) that I began to really appreciate Human Resources and how critical good HR is to the success of an organization.  Again, I was fortunate to work with great superiors, peers, and subordinates, and for the first time I had some relative autonomy in how to “run” an organization.

As it came time to transfer from that position, I got some of the best advice ever:  Go back to school and get my Masters Degree.  The first part of this advice (What to do) was from my wife, who encouraged me to do it while on shore duty (my next three years would not have me sent abroad) and the second half of this great advice (How to do it) was from a newly arriving Physician who told me to get enrolled before I check into my new command.  Otherwise, he said, I would risk finding excuses about why it would be too difficult.

So, as I was leaving 6th Marine Regiment I looked into the Masters Programs offered by Webster University on board Camp Lejeune.  As I talked to a counselor about the various programs they offered I realized that my job as  Navy Chief encompassed a vast majority of the information covered in the Human Resources Management Program.  I did staffing, I did training, I did performance evaluations, I was responsible for organizational development.  My first class started two months after I checked in as the Academics Chief for Field Medical Training Battalion (FMTB). For three years I attended night classes and spent the majority of my weekends surrounded by journal articles, but  three months prior to leaving FMTB, I had the degree.  Mission accomplished.

The HR program at Webster was truly a terrific learning experience.  I enjoyed the real world discussions and appreciated the fact that my instructors allowed me to do papers and projects about actual issues I was dealing with at work.  This made the three years go by relatively quickly, and was a factor not only in my education, but the overall success of the academics department.

As I left FMTB for a return to Second Marine Division I was truly blessed to be named as the Leading Chief of 2d Battalion, 8th Marines (HR Manager for an aid station of sixty four enlisted Sailors and two Medical Officers supporting a unit of over 1,000 Marines).  I was not only an experienced Chief, by this point, but the job of Battalion Chief offered me even more freedom to put the things I had learned into practice.  The chain of command supported me and it wasn’t long before an aid station that had been struggling began to see success. Getting off on the right foot and establishing a true team mentality allowed the many outstanding individuals to flourish in their assigned roles.

We deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 and faced some of the most austere conditions of any unit in the past 40 years.  I was a part of the best command of my career, at the most critical time, and am convinced that the education I got through Webster was the key factor in my success.  As I returned from the deployment I had become certain the Human Resources was the field for me.

Outside the Aid Station in Afghanistan. (Summer 2009)

Outside the Aid Station in Afghanistan. (Summer 2009)

The success at 2d Battalion 8th Marines directly led to a positional promotion to the Office of the Division Surgeon. I looked at this as an opportunity to polish up the staffing side of my HR experience.  In this position I was responsible for the Navy staffing of the 27 separate units that made up the Division.  Each unit needed the standard 66 medical personnel prior to deployment, but unfortunately the math didn’t work as we did not have that many medical personnel in the Division.  This also did not account for the fact that each unit needed a certain number of Sailors of specific specialties and pay grades.

Further complicating the job was the fact that the rotation dates of Navy personnel were not designed to coincide with any specific unit rotation date. In addition, other units were requesting specific skill sets that they would not normally be allowed to have, but would actually  need, due to the nature of their mission in Afghanistan.  I spent the next 18 months making some people happy at the expense of others. Ultimately every unit that deployed had the people they needed and the units that remained behind were still able to conduct all the required training.  Honest and forthright communications, both vertically and horizontally was essential.

Commissioning of Dr. Albert Chi, Trauma Surgeon at Johns Hopkins. (April 2103)

At the commissioning of Dr. Albert Chi, Trauma Surgeon, Johns Hopkins Medical Institute. (April 2103)

Leaving Second Marine Division was difficult, but I knew that in order to really expand my credentials I would need to prove that I could operate in an environment other than the military.  The position of Medical Officer Recruiter was not only exciting, but a perfect opportunity to do just that.  Checking into this command I was pretty certain that this would be it for me as far as the military.  It would take me to my 20 year mark, and the skills and experiences I would get here would be some of the most easily transferable to the lexicon of the civilian world.

Far from being on the ROAD program (Retired on Active Duty), I knew that my success here was going to be critical to my success in the “next life”.  I joined a local networking group for recruiters, engaged people in civilian organizations at colleges and hospitals and have met or exceeded my goal in both of my first two years.

This job has put me squarely in the middle of the military and civilian worlds. In fact, the essence of my job is explanation and translation.  One of the true joys has been the pleasure of seeing the Navy through the eyes of people who are experiencing for it the first time. This is why I am sure that this is absolutely the right job to have immediately prior to retirement, because I believe it gives me the best opportunity for a soft landing.

I recently completed my Senior Professional in Human Resources Certification and am currently enrolled in a program to become a certified veteran transition coach.  By mid- June my family and I will be back in Jacksonville, NC, the area we lived in for the 10 years prior to my assignment in Baltimore.

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One comment on “About: Bob Wheeler

  1. mike ferraro says:

    Nice website….

    mike ferraro

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